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Notebooks Unpopular opinion: Acer are now the best budget laptop brand.

Discussion in 'Hardware' started by boiled_elephant, 9 Nov 2020.

  1. boiled_elephant

    boiled_elephant Merom Celeron 4 lyfe

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    Reposting this from Reddit because I spent like half an hour writing it (due to cumulative work experiences and customer calls bringing it to the fore) and then like one person read it and I'm salty about it.

    Credentials first so you don't shoot me on sight: I have worked in local IT for 8 years and have been a computer enthusiast for about 20 years. I've owned several laptops, sold hundreds and repaired thousands. I've done hinges, DC jacks, daughterboards, icky soldering work, epoxy glue repairs, nasty DIY bodges, screens, keyboards, palmrests, motherboard replacements, whole base plastic swaps and plenty more besides.

    Acer still have this permanent reputation as a crappy Chinese knock-off brand, so pervasive that even my elderly customers who know nothing about computers go "eurgh, Acer, really?" And I just can't let it pass any more. Because from everything I've seen across the last 10 years of laptops, Acer laptops have been most consistent in their fundamental build quality, while Asus, Samsung, Toshiba, HP, Dell and Lenovo have gradually gone to the dogs or at the very least been wildly inconsistent.

    Another important caveat. I am talking specifically about the budget range here. The $400-700/£300-600, non-gaming consumer laptop range. This price point accounts for the vast majority of laptop ownership outside of gaming, business and education, because the average person doesn't have $1200/£900 to spend on a metal alloy chassis ultrabook or chunky gaming laptop. Of course, those high end laptops are better built than anything else. More metal, more ventilation, more screws, better mounts, better designs. But in the budget range, Acer are the build quality king.

    I've watched the evolution of hinge structure, plastic grades, screen brackets, screw bosses and DC jacks over the years, and Acer have pioneered the techniques that have gradually made laptops more tolerable to own over the past decade. (And no, they're not paying me money to say this. I mostly sell refurb corporate laptops and repair consumer laptops to help customers avoid buying new ones, so they probably hate guys like me.) Consumer laptops have had three serious boo-boos over the last decade: DC jacks that crack free of the board and need resoldering, eventually solved with cable-attached jacks that float captive in a housing; weak screen assembly corners; and weak hinge mounts in the base compounded by too-small hinge feet, the latter 2 of which were solved by increased metal construction, wider surface areas across the hinge mounting locations and tougher grades of plastic.

    These problems culminated in around 2011-2014, when an obsession with aesthetics drove lots of bad choices across the whole budget laptop sector, resulting in laptops that broke easily and were a pain to own and a bigger pain to repair. In each case, Acer were one of the first companies to adopt the curative measures, while esteemed goliath brands like Lenovo, Samsung, Dell and HP continued to roll out weak, crappy designs that broke and failed. HP, paradoxically, were the worst offender and are still doing it in their budget range - I've seen hinge designs as recent as 2018 that still make me shudder. Lenovo and Dell are hit and miss: some good designs, some crappy ones doomed to break. (Dell have a weird quirk where many of their designs often result in hinge screws steadily undoing themselves rather than snapping the plastic mounts, but I'm not sure if this counts as a win.) Samsung have given up entirely, as have Toshiba, but both made some hilariously bad laptops rife with terrible design choices before the end. And Acer keep on trucking, they've had the strongest budget hinges and screens for ages now.

    It baffles me because HP, Dell and Lenovo make corporate laptops and desktops that ooze careful and intelligent design choices, but on their budget laptops they'll just do everything wrong, even though examples of how to do it right already exist in the market, even in their own high-end stock. Acer, though, do almost everything right on a budget laptop. The only annoyances I have are their integrated keyboards, which can't be easily replaced without replacing the entire palmrest assembly, and their touchpads, which are kinda huge and a bit too glossy for some peoples' preference, but it's not a deal breaker. If I want to point someone at something that isn't going to break the bank or fall to bits in 18 months' time, I point them at a ~£350-400 Acer.

    I don't even like saying it, because I partook in the "haha Acer, Chinese garbage" banter along with everyone else for years. But as with McAfee, Norton and gaming as a career choice, there comes a time when you must examine the facts and grudgingly admit that the thing you love to laugh at, the thing that sucked for years, has actually turned into something kinda good. Acer now make very good budget laptops relative to all other budget laptops, and the trickle-down brand loyalty everyone has for HP, Dell and Lenovo because of their amazing corporate sector products is leading us astray in the consumer sector.

    Come at me.

    (The following doesn't really apply to bit-tech readers, it was for /r/UnpopularOpinion.)
    P.S. Oh, and side note to pre-empt anecdotal consumer reports of "I bought an Acer and it was slow as hell!" - every brand out there currently makes a bottom-of-the-line laptop with a Celeron or AMD E-series processor and a mechanical hard drive, and those low-spec machines will be terribly slow no matter who manufactures them. Yes, I agree they shouldn't make them at all, but the industry demands it and every brand does it - you probably just ended up with a crappy Acer, rather than a crappy HP, Dell, Lenovo or Asus, because theirs was the cheapest. youchosepoorly.jpg

    P.P.S. I haven't mentioned Asus much in this. That's because they're kind of like Acer's ugly brother in the budget laptop world. They make similarly priced machines, but their design choices are worse, so they're irrelevant by default: bad reputation, bad product, low market presence. They mostly suck.
     
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  2. Midlight

    Midlight Member

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    I must say I do agree with your points. I used to have an acer laptop that just seemed to last for ever, about 6 years I think. In the same time I had that my sister in law went through 2 laptops, an asus and a dell I think. And I wasn't exactly gentle on it either, did a bit of traveling/ working away around that time, just got lobbed into my bag and off I went.
    About a year before it finally gave up the cd drive got a bit squirrelly, came loose from the connector so you had to shove the drive back into the chassis to get it working. Other than that it was fine.
     
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  3. spolsh

    spolsh Well-Known Member

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    Interesting to see somebody who actually fixes them have their say.

    I don't really think there is so much of a "good brand","bad brand" thing with computer hardware these days - every company has released crap at some point now.
     
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  4. adidan

    adidan Guesswork is still work

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    Usually picked up Acers for my mum, all lasted and suited her well.

    Saying that I may have got her a Lenovo last time, got my my GF a better spec Lenovo too - was great value for money at the time.

    I've always steered clear of HP for some reason, no idea why.
     
  5. boiled_elephant

    boiled_elephant Merom Celeron 4 lyfe

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    Probably because you handled a few and registered, on some subconscious level, that the base and hinge mount construction felt like garbage. HP made the single worst hinge/mount/screen assembly I've ever seen, in the ~2015 Envy series. They had a full metal LCD cover which implied stronger construction, but it wasn't structural and below that it was all poor quality shallow plastic mounts, glue and very short metal tabs. The metal LCD cover increased the screen assembly's weight and also gave customers a false sense of confidence in its integrity, and every single HP Envy around that time we ever saw had broken hinges. Many broke around the screen's lower corners because the support struts were too weak, most popped the screw bosses right out of the plastic because the plastic grade used was like old cheese. I absolutely hated them and ultimately we (my former employer and I) refused on sight to do any invasive repairs on Envy laptops because of the inevitable mess and frustration.

    I still haven't really forgiven HP for the Envy series, even though their corporate Probooks and Elitebooks (especially c.2013-14) are my all time favorites. I just couldn't believe the sheer ****ing hubris of calling it the Envy, making it look shiny, strong and Probook-esque, and constructing it so terribly underneath, assuming customers somehow wouldn't notice or care when their £600 laptop fell to bits at the seams.
     
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  6. Osgeld

    Osgeld Active Member

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    Tldr

    Acer has been making laptops for hp compaq ti epson and many others including IBM monitors since the 80's

    But thanks on summarizing your entire 8 years into 30 pages of omg when will it stop
     
  7. adidan

    adidan Guesswork is still work

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    Cheer up cupcake.
     
  8. boiled_elephant

    boiled_elephant Merom Celeron 4 lyfe

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    Wow, and I remember when Bit-Tech was this like, really warm, welcoming community of friendly nerds.

    I especially love the part where you list Epson as a laptop brand. GG

    edit - I just noticed you joined the forum about 5 minutes ago, so I guess you a) don't really know what Bit-Tech is about (spoiler alert: it's mainly about discussing nerdy things in unnecessary detail) and b) are one of those 'toxic teens' I've heard so much about. Don't worry too much about point B, your hormones will chill out eventually.
     
  9. Gareth Halfacree

    Gareth Halfacree WIIGII! Staff Administrator Super Moderator Moderator

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    Frankly, I was more impressed with Texas Instruments making the cut.

    upload_2020-11-13_11-2-52.png
     
  10. Vault-Tec

    Vault-Tec Green Plastic Watering Can

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    Send him to me. I'll give him a dose of my happy pills.
     
  11. Arboreal

    Arboreal Keeper of the Electric Currants

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    Interested to hear this about Acer, having not had a great regard for them by reputation.

    I did have to take to pieces and repair my Dad's Dell circa 2013 laptop a few years ago, which was a shocker being used to Thinkpads at the time.

    One hinge support has broken up, and I managed to glue it fairly well and add some strength.

    The worst aspect for me was the fact that I had to take everything out to get to the HDD to swap it for an SSD. There was a base hatch for the RAM and wifi card, but the drive was under the motherboard with no hatch.

    Keyboard out, everything unwired then motherboard out before the drive was accessible, this was a very poor piece of design.

    That said, it works a whole lot better with and SSD, and the hinges are hanging in there with careful use and handling.
     
  12. yuusou

    yuusou Well-Known Member

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    Epson do sell laptops in Japan however.
     
  13. Anfield

    Anfield Well-Known Member

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    Wistron, Pegatron, Quanta, Compal etc would like a word with this whole thread:grin:
     
  14. enbydee

    enbydee Active Member

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    Now there's a Transformer with an interesting back story. Ahem.
     
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